Oh – if you have not read Use Me Once – Go read it! Same with Elf in the Corner…

Chapter 25:

There is nothing but sand in the desert or Use me Always

***
The road was long, our steps were new
The storms of innocence, Strong and fresh they blew

Directions turned, love changing hands
We stood like Gods before Our maps and plans
But all things must change

So don’t look back… just walk away.

All things must change
Calum and Rory MacDonald
Runrig

***

She stood in the sand, the Mountains of Shadow at her back. The large Elf could hear her words, strange to his ear, being carried in the wind as she pleaded with the man standing so obstinately before her. For one week, she had come, pleaded, begged to come among the tribe, the nomads. She wanted to hear their side of the story, to record what life was like for them. For one week, they had listened, listened to her reasonings. For one week, they held her off. The Elf looked on, nonchalant, seemingly at ease. To his back was his brother. Further on, their friend, on horseback, with an Elfling. Ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

The man and the woman were now arguing.

Nay. That was the wrong word.

The man had made a statement. One word.

She continued to plead. Haldir was floored. He rarely heard her beg. And this tone of voice – she was begging.

The man chopped once with his hand. “Nuut!”

Haldir’s hand went immediately to his bow. There was a whistling in the air and a single, long, shaft embedded itself in the ground between Bronwyn and the tribal leader she had been negotiating with all week.

The wind kicked up suddenly and the sand swirled in the air.

And when it settled, the man was gone. Leaving Bronwyn standing where she had been. In tears.

Haldir looked back to Rumil. “You are watching?”

“Aye.”

Haldir approached his wife. When he touched her shoulder, she turned, burying her face into his chest. “Oh, Haldir, I failed. I have failed so miserably.” His arms enclosed her.

“Nay. You have not failed. You did what you could. The Valar can ask for no more.” His eyes searched, seeing things he did not wish to see. Danger. Anger. “This is no place for us; no place for Beckett.” He turned her towards the horses, leading her away. “Let us hie from this cursed land and find a safe place to rest.”

“There is no safe place near here, Haldir. None.” She wiped her arm across her face, grit stinging her eyes. “What I would not give for a real bed and a bath.” They passed Rumil and he followed as they went past, his eyes continuing to search. “So many things, I wish for.” They reached their horses, their pack mounts and he helped her mount, although she did not need it. She looked tiredly at Haldir. “Heru en Cormmin, what would I do without you?”

He stroked the booted ankle as he placed it in her stirrup. “You probably would have chased after him, demanding your way, knowing you.”

Her smile was humorless. “Nay. I would have wandered aimlessly into the desert of Far Harad. Without you, I would be dead.” She looked to her sleeping son in Heridil’s arms. “This is no life for a child. What were we thinking?” She looked back to her husband, who had now mounted his own horse and was pulling it up next to her. “What were the Valar thinking to demand all of this and give us no time to raise our child in a normal way?”

“I do not think the Valar command time, Baraermin.” He searched for Rumil, found him mounted and looking back to the desert, motioned with his head. “We will discuss this later. Let us be away from here. The further, the sooner, the better.”

They rode. They rode hard.

***

Ar sindanoriello caite mornie
Ar ilye tier undulave lumbule

JRRT

***

It was late. The horses were near, their sharp awareness would be an early warning indication of wrong. Rumil was up, roaming in the darkness, his Elven eyes seeing much. Heridil slept, his eyes glowing. Bronwyn’s eyes were on her son.

Beckett grew slowly. He was taking after his father’s side; he would require almost a century to reach adulthood. Although at age eight, he was barely past being a toddler, a pre-schooler, had he been born in Bronwyn’s time. Not much older than Duncan. He took great joy being with his father whose patience was unending with the Elfling. Together on horse and off, they explored their surroundings, Haldir pointing at much and explaining in gentle words. Rumil and Heridil taught as well, played with the small child. It was not unusual for one to be on the ground as they slowly roamed, chasing, playing tag with the child as another kept the extra horse by the reins, cheering the little one on.

As a Peredhil, Beckett would choose his destiny. Stay or leave for the Undying Lands – that place where there was peace and sorrow melted. That haven where Celebrian, Elrond’s wife, had fled after her attack and imprisonment by the Orcs.. Bronwyn already knew his destiny. He would stay. She sat in front of the fire, watching. She was vaguely aware of when Haldir joined her, moving behind her. His hands went to her shoulders.

“You are in a knot. I daresay, you have a headache to rival mine.” His gravelly voice, that she loved so, whispered in her ear.

“I am tired. I am tired of living as a nomad.” She dropped her head, lolling it to one side. “This isn’t right for Beckett. He deserves a bed, a home, he needs friends, playmates his own age.” Her sigh was heavy, as strong hands caressed her back, taming the knots in her shoulders. “He should awake in the same place, put down roots. He shouldn’t have sand in his bed, his only playmates adults.”

Haldir listened to her, listened to her complaints. He agreed with her and for many months had pondered on how to approach the subject. Her back relaxed and he pulled her into his arms.

“Baraer. May I suggest?”

“May you?” she whispered dejectedly. “You have to ask? Please do.”

“We have spent eight long years, toiling in this forsaken place. We have mapped, spoken to the people of, explored Harondor, Umbar, the City of the Corsairs, the Havens of Umbar, Far Harad, Sutherland, Near Harad, and this past month, Khand…”

“You mean, we ATTEMPTED to speak to the people of Khand!”

“…We have dared the Mountains of Shadow and have observed and documented the devastation of Nurn. We have seen the vileness of the Sea of Nurnen. Why not take time, return to Minas Tirith. Elessar and Arwen will help us find accommodations, a house. Their son is of an age with Beckett and they probably have another child by now. We can set up a base from there. Elessar will allow us access to the maps of Middle Earth; we can plan; build a strategy. We can plan short trips, find someone to stay with Beckett…” he laid a finger across her lips, quieting her protest, “… I know you do not wish to leave him, but the alternative is this.” his hand gestured to the desert. “I am not saying leave him for months, years at a time. I am suggesting a week, maybe two here and there.” He pulled her tighter into her arms, his palms gently rubbing her arms. “We need to talk about agreeing again. But I will not do it while we are on the road. I wish for us to be rooted for a time. I will not travel with you near your time again. It was difficult for you. It made your delivery of Beckett hard and tiring.” Haldir tilted her chin up and kissed her sweetly. “Let us return to the White City. Let us see if Orophin is still with the healer and make sure he…they are happy, if they are. Let us put down roots for a small time and plan in earnest. Surely, the Valar will give us that.”

Bronwyn readily agreed.

***
I walk you down that road
It’s the only road we know

nights so blinding
The World denying

that love so loved the world
What words to ease the pain
A life to live again…

Life is
RunRig
Calum and Rory MacDonald

***

Some things came first and Bronwyn insisted on the small hamlet to begin with, for which Haldir was grateful. They rode into the small town, each on their own mount, Beckett snug and secure in Haldir’s arms. The Elfling missed nothing, his eyes quickly assessing the state of the small village. Clean, prosperous, well- tended yards. Flowers hung from pots and herbs were planted along the porch of the inn, which was their destination.

Two small children, one with Orophin’s delicate features played in the grass. One ran inside when he saw the Elves and Woman ride up.

“Well, fancy seeing you. I suspected you would come sooner or later.” Lera came out of the dark inn, wiping her hands on a water sodden apron. “Orophin is out with Ducate and Rodfer a-hunting. He should be back soon.”

Rumil had swung off his mount and pulled the healer into a quick embrace. “And my rotten brother is keeping you happy?” She stepped back, patting a gently swelling stomach.

“Aye! That he is!” Her eyes took in Haldir and Beckett. “Look at your wee one! A fine young man, you have!” Beckett looked up at the stranger, his expression serious. He then looked at his father.

“Aunt… Lera?”

“Aye.”

The small hand went to his heart. “Mae Govannen.” he said formally.

“Melkor’s chains, Haldir! Do not tell me you are teaching your Elfling to be stiff as you!” Orophin came from around the back, a huge smile on his face. He grabbed his stoic brother in a bear hug and then swung the Elfling up in the air. “Ah, Beckett, you have grown! Do you remember your Uncle Orophin?”

“No.”

“Well! We shall fix that soon enough!” Orophin’s eyes swept the group, settling on Bronwyn. “Mae Govannen, Tithen Aras.” His hand gently swept across his heart, before quickly pulling her into his embrace. “It is so very good to see you. You look…”

“Tired, Orophin. Say it. I look tired.” Her hand strayed to cup his face. “You are happy, Orophin?” she whispered. “Truly, are you happy?” Her eyes searched his face.

Orophin pulled her closer, burying his face in her neck. “Yes. Thank you so much for making me leave. I would have never done it had you not.” He pulled away, looking at his Lera. “Rumil, you cad! Unhand my wife!” He bounced onto the porch, pulling his wife from Rumil’s grasp. “Go in; make yourself at home. I have fresh game in the back. We will have a fine feast tonight!”

***

They stayed four days. Beckett was very taken with his cousin, Rikarden, and the two played everywhere constantly. They were underfoot, but no one seemed to pay the two any mind. The adults stayed up late the second night, Bronwyn sharing their exploits through out the south, Orophin telling his brothers and Heridil of his marriage. He had not waited long after returning to Minas Tirith to talk the Twins into accompanying him to Lera’s door. They were living together, openly, in love, when six months later, Elrond showed up at in the snowy night, Arwen, the Twins, Celeborn, and Galadriel in tow. It had been late in the evening and Orophin stood on the porch, flittering white specks all around.

“Dishonor her, you will not!” Elrond was firm, insistent.

“It is not my intention to dishonor her, my lord.” Orophin’s voice was quiet, subdued. “I love her more than my own life!”

“Then why do you wait? You live openly…”

“Lord Elrond, please.” Galadriel’s voice was a quiet, gentle lull. “It is late and cold. Perhaps, if you allow Orophin a chance to breathe, he will ask us inside where it is warm…”

Orophin quickly brought them into the common room.

Lera had woken up, hearing the whispered conversation. She recognized Elladan and Elrohir but did not recognize the Elves who had their backs to her. She only knew the dark headed one was arguing with her beloved. She was immediately afraid they had come to force Orophin back to the Golden Woods, to the Undying Lands and she was not going to let it happen without a fight. Too long, she had waited for Iluvatar to send her soulmate…

“See here! I do not know what is being said, but Orophin is staying with…”

And she looked into eyes that looked back at her in the mirror every morning. Quickly she looked over at the twins, the young woman beside them, back to the Elf with careworn lines about his face.

“Elrond. You are… Lord Elrond.”

“If you are Lera Meare, you will not call me Lord.” His eyes searched hers, searched her face, saw the pointed ears. Long, elegant fingers gently caressed her face before taking her hand. “You have the look of your great, great- grandmother.”

Lera narrowed her eyes. “You remember her? It was only one night.”

Elrond tucked her hand into his elbow. “I have never spread my affections lightly. It might have only been one night, but I still treasure the memory. It seems she gave me more than just comfort that night.” Managing to hold onto the woman, he turned to Orophin. ” I want to know what your intentions are, Elfling.”

“Now, hold on just a minute!” Lera pulled herself to full height and removed her hand from Elrond’s elbow. “You do not know me, did not know I existed until when? How dare you come into my home and order my beloved about! I will not tolerate being jostled about by some pushy Elf with a belated conscious!”

Elrond’s children looked at each other with concern. No one had ever spoken to their father like that.

A single eyebrow raised and a slight smile curved on Elrond’s mouth. He reached for the fisted hand and gently put it back in his elbow.

“Seems we have much to discuss, Lera Meare.” His eyes perused the warm common room, now crowded with Elves. “Elladan. Elrohir. Take care of the horses and bring in our packs. Orophin. If we cannot stay here, please see to our accommodations. You,” he gently flicked Lera on the nose, “is your kitchen warm? I find the cold does not agree with me and I would like some hot tea.” At her nod, he led her from the room. “We have needs to talk.”

Orophin and Lera were married a week later.

“I have a sister! I finally have a sister!” Arwen was overheard whispering to her brothers.

Elrond had stayed for a month, returning many times over the next two years, before departing for the Undying Lands. He taught Lera healing skills she only dreamed of, taught her of herbs, and other medicinal things. He delivered Rikarden when her time had come and there were many tears shed when he left the last time.

***

They were recognized by the royal guard as they entered the lower gates of the White City, who immediately sent word to the King that they were taking rooms in quiet section of the town. Aragorn was most put out when he discovered they had bypassed the palace to stay at a public inn. They had found rooms in a decent area of town and had an extra bed set up for Beckett. The Elfling was curled up, under covers with his mother’s teddy when a rowdy noise came up the hallway and their door banged open.

“I am most pleased that I was not enjoying my wife, youngling!” Haldir hissed sarcastically. “Did they not teach you better manners in Imladris? Did Elrond not teach you to knock?” The ever-present Elven eyebrow arched highly up.

The King of Gondor stood in the middle of the room, in a leather tunic and breeches, fists on both hips. “Enjoying your wife? If your wife is anything like my wife, after traveling for eight long years, and finally getting to a real bed, she would be in the bath and plumping up pillows! I would most definitely not be getting lucky!” He reached out and grabbed Bronwyn in a mighty bear hug, bussing her soundly on the mouth. “Pack up your gear, sweetling. There is room at the palace!”

Bronwyn smacked Aragorn soundly on the chest. “We can discuss it tomorrow, you knave!”

Aragorn looked at Haldir, confusion on his face. ‘Knave?’ he mouthed. ‘Me?’ Haldir shrugged his indifference to the joke as Bronwyn rattled on.

“I am tired, I am unpacked, my baby is asleep. I will not disturb his slumber for anything and that…” she jabbed a finger in the firmly vested chest, “… includes waking him up and moving him to the palace. Besides,” she disentangled herself from Aragorn’s embrace, “we do not wish to intrude. It is our plan to stay for at least a year, make some plans…”

“Then you must stay at the palace.” Aragorn made his plea to Haldir. “Beckett can stay in the nursery with Eldarion. They are of an age. We have a daughter as well, Arellbeth. She is almost six and quite the pest to her big brother. They will both enjoy his company. If the rooms you had before are not adequate, we will find others…”

” No. No.” Haldir held his hand up in supplication. “They will be fine. We just do not wish to be a burden.”

“Mellon, you do not understand. The Evenstar will be angered beyond reason if you decline.” Haldir made a face. He knew Arwen’s temper well. “Regardless, if you stay a week or ten years, please come.”

Haldir looked deeply into his wife’s eyes. He saw her exhaustion, could sense her fatigue. She, in turn, glanced at their son, dark circles under his eyes, curled up with the bear, hand in his curls, tugging even in his sleep.

“In the morning, my friend.” He raised his hand to stop Aragorn’s plea. “In the morning. My wife is exhausted and my son is as well. Let us sleep, let them sleep and when we awake, we will come.”

***

Kuma San Kuma San
Turn yourself around

Kuma San Kuma San
Hands upon the ground

Kuma san Kuma san
Jump with one foot in the air

Kuma san Kuma San
Sayounara

Kuma San/Honorable Bear
Japanese Children’s Folk Song

***

“I will not be an Orc!”

“Fine! Then you can be a Warg Rider.”

“That is an Orc, too! I am telling Ada!” A girlish whine rose from the hallway, approaching the council room. Aragorn had his head in his hands, fingers massaging his temples. The door, although open, was slammed into the wall as the small child barreled through, pique on the tiny face. “Ada! I…”

“I heard, Tithen Aras. Come here and tell me.” Aragorn held his hands out to his daughter, pulling her into his lap. While Haldir and Bronwyn worked very hard to keep straight faces, the little girl whined and complained about the horrid treatment she was receiving at the hands of her brother and his appalling new friend.

“They want me to be an Orc so they can slaughter me and hang my carcass from the rafters and pike my head on the end of a sword…”

“That is not true, Ada. We wish to negotiate a peace treaty with the renegade Orcs…”

Beckett stood to the side, finger in a lock of curls, watching the proceedings. Haldir beckoned him with the crook of a finger. The little redhead climbed into his father’s lap.

“What do you have to say for all of this?” he asked his son quietly.

“We were going to slaughter her.” the Elfling answered matter-of-factly.

Haldir nodded in mock agreement. “That sounds about right.”

After several minutes of serious discussion between Aragorn and his children, the three left the conference room with a final admonishment to ‘play nice’. Aragorn took a deep breath.

“I do believe running a country and negotiating tax treaties to be much easier than dealing with those two.” He tilted his head towards Bronwyn. “So, when are the two of you going to expand your family nest?”

“After watching that? Never!” she cackled. Haldir just shook his head in amazement. “Beckett is enough!”

“Haven’t you heard?” Aragorn teased. “You are only playing at parenthood with only one child. To truly be considered a parent, you must have more than one!” He waggled his eyebrows at Haldir.

“We are discussing it.” Bronwyn lied smoothly. Her nose buried in maps, she completely missed the looks passed over her head.

Two months after their arrival in the White City, Bronwyn and Haldir explored past the White Mountains into Belafalas, staying with Imrahil in Dol Amroth. For a solid week, she poured over the historical libraries with his chief advisors, questioning them until they thought they would pass out from the headaches she caused. After an all-night lovemaking session, they decided to ride into Anfallas and explored the Langstram. She loved the ruralness of it, the openness. They stayed in fishing villages, Haldir spending time with the fishermen, Bronwyn helping in the villages. They were gone six weeks and it was one of the longest trips they ever took away from Beckett. Upon their return, Bronwyn spent the entire week in the nursery, singing and playing with her son and his two playmates.

Beckett informed his Ada that his Mama made the best slaughtered Orc. Eldarion was most impressed by her acting skills.

Once Haldir took Beckett into fields to stalk ‘Oliphants’ …

(“You did what? You took my baby into the fields to stalk what? Haldir! You moron! What would have you done had you found one?

“Run! Run like hell!”)

… she and Arwen took Arellbeth into the marketplace to buy ribbons. The little girl’s eyes were huge at the sight of bright silks and pretty baubles. Arwen saw how Bronwyn doted on her little princess and knew her longing.

“When are you and Haldir going to agree again?” she asked, paying for a handful of bright ribbons. “Beckett is ten almost eleven. Is it not time?”

Bronwyn perused over scented soaps and perfumes. “We are going to spend some time in Osgiliath. Aragorn received a missive from Faramir that in the rebuilding of the city, they found an old mosque, with scrolls and burial chambers with markers no one understands.”

“Ah, yes.” Arwen removed some rather expensive jewelry from her daughter’s clutches. They seem to start young, she thought to herself. “Faramir was quite excited when it when it was unearthed. Apparently, these things had been walled up during a renovation over a thousand years ago. He had hoped you would come to look at them.”

Bronwyn was smelling bath items. Oooooh! Her head jerked back in shock as she gently placed the bottle back on the shelf. THIS one was most definitely too floral…

“Well, he got his wish. I expect we shall be there several weeks to up to two months depending on the size of the cache. From there, we plan to travel up the Great West Road through Anorien and Eastfold, going through Amon Din and Calenhad. We have sent a request to Eomer to stay in Edoras and visit Rohan and Helm’s Deep. We will probably agree there and then travel on to Isengard. We plan to make Isengard our base of operations for forty years.”

“So you have agreed to agree? That is the first I have ever heard of such an arrangement.” Arwen giggled.

“Well, Orophin and Lera have offered to join us, if her brother’s wife will watch the inn and if she is not expecting.” Bronwyn motioned to the shopkeeper about a purchase. “She is a skilled midwife and after the almost fiasco with Beckett’s birth, I am hoping for an easier time.”

Arwen’s face fell. “Ada left many herb and healing potions. He made sure that he left plenty of the herbs he put in your tea to relax you.”

Bronwyn was unaware of her friend’s sudden change of mood, not looking or listening to the inflection in her voice. “Ah, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just dirt he tossed in to throw me off. But it did help. Either way, Haldir does not want to be traveling for a while. Beckett’s last years have been a nightma… Arwen?” Teary eyes looked up.

“I am sorry, Bronwyn. Ada and I exchanged harsh words when he left. I wish… I wish it had been different.” Bronwyn’s arms went around the ageless Queen.

“Your Ada knows you love him. Perhaps…”

“Nay.” Arwen pulled a handkerchief from the dainty pouch hanging from her belt. “I know what you would say. He hopes that when Aragorn passes this world, I will come. Aragorn will not pass before the last ship and I will not leave him. I will not leave my children. My place is here and when Aragorn passes, I shall fade.” And with that, the beautiful elleth turned away, taking a confused Arellbeth in hand and led her from the market.

Bronwyn took a deep breath. “Oh boy. The shit must have really hit the fan.”

***

Faramir was beside himself. He bounced with excitement. “Is it good? Is it really good?”

“Ooooh!” Bronwyn was almost orgasmic. “This is choice! Oh Dude! This is Cho-ice!” Her head bobbed with anticipation. Haldir knew they would be here several months by the sheer size of the catacombs.

“That is good? Dude? Cho-ice? That is a good thing?” Faramir was meticulous to the nth degree.

“Oh yeah! Very good!” Bronwyn wandered through the stacks of scrolls, seeing openings in the walls. “I thought you had only uncovered one room.”

“As we cleaned and explored, we discovered more and more. These catacombs extend for quite a ways. We have touched nothing. We have waited for you.” The Steward of Gondor was not doing a good job of hiding his excitement.

Bronwyn’s air passages were already beginning to burn with the dust she was stirring up. Haldir heard the delicate cough as she tried to clear her lungs without him noticing and he made a mental note to make unpacking and taking inventory of the healing herbs a top priority. She would not last long before having a full blown bronchial attack. He could see her rubbing her hands together, anxious to get to work.

“Baraermin. Please. A word.”

“A word? A single word? I doubt that!” Bronwyn made her way towards the large Elf standing in the doorway.

“We have traveled hard these past two days. Beckett is tired. This can wait until tomorrow.”

“See! I knew you wanted more than a single word!” Bronwyn’s finger jabbed playfully into his abdomen.

“Haha. Give over. Ten minutes in here and already your lungs burn. I feel it. Let us start on the herbs that Elrond left for that and you should have little difficulty. But wait until tomorrow to start. Please”

“Your husband is right.” Faramir calmly stood behind the pair. “We have rooms for you for as long as you need. Please, go and refresh yourselves and get Beckett settled. Eowyn expects all of you for dinner. Beckett and our daughter, Orelinde, are of an age and our son, Halathor, is not much younger..” Faramir was obviously quite proud of his brood. “Please come.”

It was an evening they would never forget.

***

Eowyn greeted them with a huge smile. Bronwyn remembered her from Aragorn and Arwen’s wedding and noted she seemed much happier than she had then. She glowed in the happiness of her marriage.

The sounds of children playing could be heard as they came into the spacious home and Beckett’s ears immediately went to the clamor. He had been most distressed at having to leave the nursery at Minas Tirith and had quietly shed tears after leaving the gates, clandestinely wiping them away when he thought no one was looking. Haldir had seen them anyway and used the excuse of making sure he was secure in his lap to hold him closer. Faramir pointed the Elfling in the direction of the room the children were in and he scampered off, in search of new playmates.

After making sure the children were fed in their room, Eowyn joined the adults for dinner. The conversation was lively, Faramir and Eowyn, interested in the goings-on of the South, of the White City. Rumil regaled them with stories of the beach; he had enjoyed virtual surfing. Heridil was quiet, reserved, but did not seem to be a stick in the mud. Occasionally, laughter from the nursery could be heard and usually a well-placed word from Faramir quietened them. However, all things adult came crashing to a halt, when a blonde child with delicately pointed ears came running into Faramir’s arms.

“They said I am an Orc and I must be slaughtered, Father!”

“Orelinde! Who said you are an Orc?” Faramir smoothed the hair back from a tearful face.

“Halathor. Beckett.” Both Bronwyn and Haldir winced at the name of their son. “They said they were a brave Knight of Gondor and a loyal March Warden of Lothlórien and it was their job to keep the lands safe!” She looked angrily at Haldir, blue eyes mutinous. “Beckett said I was to be beheaded and my head stuck on a pike!”

Bronwyn stood up gracefully, wiping her mouth on her napkin. “It is late. I believe it is time to take a certain Elfling to his bed. What think you, Haldir?”

Haldir’s scowl was fierce and the small girl in Faramir’s arms recoiled at the sight, assuming the scowl was directed at her. “I agree, Baraermin. I believe it is time to have a long talk with young Beckett. He should know better.” Rumil and Heridil wisely held their own counsel as Eowyn took charge of her daughter and Faramir went to retrieve Beckett and deal with Halathor.

Upon reaching their rooms, Haldir had a long, serious talk with Beckett that ended with the Elfling crying huge, copious tears long into the night. He forbid Bronwyn to go and comfort him and though she chaffed, she had to agree with her husband; Beckett needed to be more understanding of delicate feelings. Haldir had a monstrous headache after the goings on and despite Bronwyn’s rubbing of his shoulders and the sweet lovemaking that always followed, he still stewed.

“Haldir. I do not care how long you stare at it. The ceiling will not move.” Bronwyn chided gently, ensconced under his arm. “What is on your mind?”

Haldir chewed on his bottom lip, eyebrows arching upwards. “I will kill him. Most definitely. Next time I see that Orc of an Elf, I shall slaughter him happily.” He nodded to himself before looking down at Bronwyn, moonlight dancing through the window onto her features.

“Who, Cormmin?”

“Legolas.”

***

For three days, Haldir brooded most unhappily. Bronwyn had not seen him this deep in a bad mood since her early days in Lothlórien when she had been such a burden to him. She broached the subject with Faramir, playfully.

“I do not mean to pry, so tell me to cease, but I did not know you or Eowyn had Elven blood in your ancestors.” Bronwyn sat in the dusty floor, piles of scrolls all around. She had sent the scribes off for a break of clear air and she and Faramir sat in the midst of everything as if they sat on a pile of gold. To them, it was more precious.

“No, you do not pry. It is no secret. A clanswoman in Edoras fell in love with an Elf during the War and died giving birth to the lass. Eowyn fell in love with her immediately and took her in.” His look was uneased, uncomfortable and he did not miss Bronwyn’s look of concern, of understanding and of pity. “I… I… You can tell. It is a lie.”

“I know nothing, Faramir.”

The Steward stood up and stretched his lean frame. Hands went to locks of auburn hair. “I wish she would tell me the truth!”

“What do you think the truth is?” Her voice was soft, gentle. She had stood up behind him and laid an understanding hand on his elbow.

“That the child is hers. Hers and the Prince of Mirkwood’s. Orelinde looks just like him…”

“You have met Legolas?”

“Yes. I liked him. A lot. I do not blame them…”

“How do you know she is Orelinde’s mother? She could be telling the truth…” Bronwyn’s voice continued to console and Faramir was aware of her calming presence. Faramir chuckled mirthlessly and looked down at the MarchWarden’s wife. To marry that one, she must have the patience of the Valar, he thought to himself. He would have been horrified to discover it was truly the other way around.

“No. She is Eowyn’s daughter. She has her eyes; that stubborn chin.” This time, the smile was genuine. “I love that stubborn chin…”

“Perhaps she is afraid you will reject her, reject Orelinde?”

Faramir actually looked horrified at the idea. “Reject her? Why? Iluvatar knows I have at least two children from my younger years. I take care of them too. Why would I blame her for a youthful indiscretion? I love Orelinde as if she were my own. As far as I am concerned, she is mine.” Faramir wandered the room, flicking his fingers over the dust-laden tables. “Nay, I could never reject her or blame her mother. Eowyn carries the marks of her birth. She grows so slowly and I worry.” He rubbed particle-covered digits together. “This hovers over us like a dark pall of night. It hangs over our lives. I wish for the curtain of secrecy to be removed. I do not know how to approach my Proud Shield Maiden.”

“I could do so if you like.”

Faramir looked towards her, disbelief in his eyes. “How? Why? It is not something one would admit to speaking of.”

“As you said, she has the look of Legolas and Eowyn. Haldir saw it immediately. He is ready to string Legolas up. I have convinced him to wait.” Faramir was rubbing his eyes, the grit in the room was extensive and even Bronwyn’s were hurting. She would have been racked with coughing spasms had Haldir not forced her to wait her research and start the herbal infusion early. “Contrary to my husband’s belief, I am not the proverbial bull in a china shop.” She ignored Faramir’s confused look. ” I do believe I can accomplish this if you like.” She picked up a random piece of parchment, seeming to peruse it, her voice bored. “Or, I could leave it be, in your capable hands.”

“You would do this for me? For us?”

“Aye.”

“Haldir of Lothlórien is a lucky Elf.” Faramir looked ten years younger, as if a huge weight had been removed from his shoulders.

“Aye, he is. But…” she wagged a finger at him, “do NOT tell him that! He thinks HE is in charge!”

***

“Eowyn, Proud Shield Maiden of Rohan. Take your microscopic butt off the martyr pedestal you have built yourself and tell your husband the flipping truth!”

“What?” Eowyn dropped the ball of yarn in her hands. Faramir had taken Orelinde to the market and Haldir, along with Rumil and Heridil, had taken Beckett and Halathor off into the fields to stalk… Oliphants. (“We will run, I swear! We will not shoot!”) “What are you talking about?” She and Bronwyn were sitting the garden, rolling balls of yarn and enjoying the solitude.

“I am talking about Orelinde. He knows the truth!”

Eowyn paled and quickly returned to her rolling. “The truth? I have no idea what you are talking about.” she sniffed disdainfully.

“Eowyn!” Bronwyn did her best to adopt Haldir’s stern voice. “It was obvious to us the moment we saw Orelinde! Haldir is ready to kill Legolas. Look at me, you silly chit!” Eowyn looked up, startled, terrified. Tel’ Lindar had always been a paragon of gentility. Never did she think that Haldir’s wife had all this fever stored within her. “The child looks like Legolas. She has your chin, your eyes, your temperament. The timing is right. Faramir says you bear the marks of her birth on your body…”

Eowyn began to shake. “He knows? He knows? Melkor’s chains, what now?”

Bronwyn had never wanted to smack anyone so hard in her life. She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Of course, he knows!”

“Oh no. He will disavow me. Set me out, disown Orelinde…” her hands went around her waist. “My children, Halathor, my daughter…”

“No, he won’t! He loves you and he wants you to tell him the truth!”

Eowyn’s eyes were wide in fright. “Tell him the truth? Nay! I could never tell him the truth! It would hurt him…” Bronwyn squeezed her eyes shut and made fists so tight, her knuckles turned white.

“Eowyn! He knows the truth! He knows you had an affair or a fling with Legolas around the time of Aragorn and Arwen’s marriage. He knows you bore Legolas’ child. He bears no ill will toward you, toward Legolas, or toward Orelinde. He loves you, although I am trying to figure out why! And he loves Orelinde as if she were his own. He does not like this gossamer web of lies that you have hung and wishes them taken down!”

Eowyn’s head hung in shame, tears flowing freely. “Are you always so blunt?”

“I am married to Haldir, March Warden of Brusqueness, the Spit-it-out Elf of Lothlórien. I would think I am a little more gentle than he is.” She looked at the woman sitting next to her with mock distaste. “Here.” she handed her a handkerchief, (she found it safe to have one handy at all times, especially with a young child… er – Elfling running around.) “Wipe your face. So you had a lovely fling with Legolas. I hope it was…satisfying?”

Eowyn nodded, dabbing at her eyes. “He was wonderful. Every woman should have their first time with one such as he.” She blew her nose and started to hand the cloth back to Bronwyn and then thankfully, thought better of it, instead, wadding the scrap up in a ball in her hand. “He was a considerate, gentle lover.”

“Of course. He would be. That is his personality.” Bronwyn had briefly entertained such thoughts at one time as well, when she had first met him. But her heart had been taken by the arrogant March Warden who infuriated her to no end. Still, one night… “So, now that all of that is cleared up, you will tell Faramir?”

“No.”

“No? No?” Bronwyn was on her feet, hands on her hips. “Are you daft? Or just thick-skulled?”

“Bronwyn!” Eowyn raised her voice for the first time. “I cannot tell Faramir the truth. The truth would hurt.”

“What? Did Legolas seduce you? Get you drunk? Take advantage?” Bronwyn remembered the saddened, moping Eowyn at the reception. Even Haldir had spoken of it. Legolas had commented as well.

“No, he did none of those things. If anything, I coerced him.” Haltingly, between sniffs, Eowyn told Bronwyn of Denethor, how he had tried to kill Faramir. All of this, Bronwyn knew.

She did not know the mental anguish Faramir had suffered and how his body had betrayed in those first few months afterwards.

Eowyn was in tears anew.

“I was desolate, I had no idea if Faramir would ever be able to… you know. I was afraid we would wed and he would not be able to… it seems so silly now. I only wanted to make sure I knew a lover’s touch. Just once.” There was no sound but Eowyn’s hiccuping. “And then our wedding night, Faramir was equally gentle and loving.” Bronwyn now stood behind the sobbing woman.

“Then, you should not have a problem telling him.”

“No! Now even more so I cannot tell him! Legolas must not know! Do you not see? I betrayed him for an imagined infirmity. I cannot tell him. Faramir is kind. He is a courageous warrior, a loving husband and father, a gentle lover…” On and on she went, Bronwyn rolling her eyes in consternation behind her. Yada yada yada! Eowyn was worse than a love-struck teenager.

“Okay, okay, you love him!” Bronwyn interrupted. “I got that much. But you still need to tell him. Your perfidy lies in the foundation of your marriage like a canker. You might pretend to be oblivious to it, but your husband is not. While now, he feels pity, and wishes to understand, in time, it will fester. He will become bitter. ‘Why can she not just tell me? I know the truth? What else could she be hiding from me? Is she still seeing him? Is she still in love with the Elf?’ You nurture the seeds of your husband’s malcontent and you continually prune and weed around the plant. Yank it from your garden now! While the roots are still shallow!” Bronwyn came around and grabbed the crying woman by the hands. “Eowyn! Your daughter will take almost a hundred years to mature to adulthood. You and Faramir will not live to see her reach her majority. Tell your husband. Allow us to tell Legolas. He will not try to take her from you and Faramir. But at least she will have someone to turn to when the time comes. Now,” Bronwyn stood straight up and propped her fists on her hips. “Stop this silly crying and become that Proud Shield Maiden that fought against a Nazgul that I have heard so much about, or I will be forced to admit that everything I have been told about you was a wretched lie!” she bellowed.

Bronwyn watched as Eowyn straightened herself. She stood up, stood tall, shoulders back and sniffed one last time. Imperious blue eyes looked into rich brown ones.

“Aye. I will tell him. And if he throws me to the dogs, I will follow you and hound you to my dying days.”

“Fair enough.” Bronwyn smirked.

***

Life is hard, somehow
Life is cold, somehow
It can make you
It can break you
In pieces all around

Life is…

***

Faramir did not throw his wife out. He listened to her pour out her heart late that night and held her tight. He understood her weakness, understood her heart and loved her more for it all. And after he reassured her that he still loved her deeply and Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, would have a fight on his hands if he thought to come and claim his daughter at this late date, he made passionate love to his wife, unknowingly insuring another child in the fold.

***
tbc
***